COUNCIL BLUFFS — The largest gift in the history of the Pottawattamie County Community Foundation will benefit Underwood and Treynor students for years to come.

The late Rick Wenninghoff left a $5 million endowment to the foundation for scholarships for students in the Underwood and Treynor Community School Districts. The foundation announced the bequest Wednesday and met with Wenninghoff’s family members for a check presentation.

“Obviously, your family and your father had a tremendous love for humanity and the land,” said Donna Dostal, president and CEO of the foundation. “We’re thankful for the tremendous generosity of your father.”

Wenninghoff was a Treynor High School graduate and his daughter, Julie Reiss, graduated from Underwood High School. In a letter to his children, Wenninghoff explained the gift “was about wanting to create an endowment fund that would continue to benefit future generations.”

“The family name meant a lot to him,” said Reiss, who lives in Waverly, Nebraska.

“He wanted to give back,” said daughter Lisa Herrick of Franklin, Nebraska.

Rick Wenninghoff inherited a love of farming from his father, and farmed land between Underwood and Crescent. Along with growing corn and soybeans, Wenninghoff Garden has been a staple at farmers markets in southwest Iowa for years.

“Dad was famous for sweet corn and tomatoes,” Reiss said.

Rick Wenninghoff was a cousin to Paul Wenninghoff, who runs a produce farm by the same name in the Omaha area.

As part of Rick Wenninghoff’s wishes, farmland was sold, with the proceeds going toward the bequest.

Wenninghoff’s two sons, Chris Wenninghoff of Franklin, and Greg Wenninghoff of Council Bluffs, also attended the event at the Pottawattamie County Community Foundation.

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School officials thanked the family.

“This gift will open doors that otherwise may have been closed,” Underwood Superintendent Edward Hawks said.

Treynor Superintendent Mark Hopkins described Wenninghoff’s gift as transformative.

“These scholarships will change the lives of our students by dramatically increasing college education opportunities,” Hopkins said.

The scholarships will be awarded through the Southwest Iowa Educational Foundation and will become available with the graduating class of 2021. The foundation will now determine how many students will receive a scholarship annually, the dollar amount awarded and the number of years a student will receive it.

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